Adams: Petrino is gone, but not forgotten as SEC looks ahead

May 30 2012 - 4:45pm

DESTIN, Fla. -- You already know a couple of things about the SEC spring meetings, as the annual gathering gets under way. You know the league will announce that it made more money than last year. You also know it will have more to celebrate than increased revenue.

Remember how impressive it seemed in 2007 when the conference won back-to-back national championships in football? The streak is now at six. Remember how impressive it seemed in 2011 when the conference won national championships in football and baseball for three consecutive seasons? A year later, it has won national titles in football and basketball and is favored to win another in baseball.

The conference keeps upstaging itself.

But there's another side to the SEC's repeated success on the field and at the bank. It will be evident when the schools' athletic directors, football coaches and basketball coaches gather.

Name tags have never been so important. And that's not just because league rookies Missouri and Texas A&M will be attending their first SEC spring meetings. The old guard has a different look, too.

Tennessee and Ole Miss have new athletic directors. Ole Miss and Arkansas have new football coaches. LSU, South Carolina and Mississippi State have new men's basketball coaches. UT, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn have new women's basketball coaches.

All that turnover isn't unrelated to the conference's success. The more success you have, the less tolerant you are of losing. The more money you make, the less hesitant you are to buy out a coach's contract.

And the more you lose, the more desperate you become. Lose enough and you become Bobby Petrino desperate.

Petrino won't be attending these meetings for the first time in five years. Yet you can't convince me that the former Arkansas football coach is gone for good. He's out of a job, but not out of mind.

He was fired as Arkansas' head football coach in April for misconduct, which included the hiring of his mistress to work in the football program. He compounded his mistake by lying to his athletic director about his relationship with the woman as well as her presence at Petrino's motorcycle mishap.

In less competitive times, such scandalous behavior might have condemned Petrino to a career as a color analyst or an NFL offensive coordinator. But the SEC is more likely to excuse moral shortcomings than losing. And Petrino is a proven winner, first at Louisville and most recently at Arkansas.

Petrino's accomplishments will be magnified -- and his career-altering motorcycle ride minimized -- the first time a team doesn't play up to expectations this fall.

The more a team loses, the more appealing Petrino will become (mistresses, motorcycles and all).

And in the SEC, where so many teams are winning championships and so many others are coveting them, he might be irresistible by the end of the next football season.


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